This is true of other pop culture landmarks in the city: Go to Haight-Ashbury, the hub of the hippie movement in the '60s, and you'll see the ornate, purple Victorian the Grateful Dead once called home, and you'll find curtains drawn, blinds shut.
Despite owners' attempts to keep visitors out, famous houses are a big tourist draw. Rick Spear, owner of Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel, referred to the Full House house's location on his blog back in 2007."It's my most popular post by a long shot," he says. Spear says his clients ask to see lots of pop culture landmarks in San Francisco: not just Chinatown or Coit Tower, but also the house in Mrs. Doubtfire (also in Pacific Heights), or where the car chase in Bullitt was filmed.
"For a destination, it's a real blessing to have them," says Laurie Armstrong, a director at the San Francisco Travel Association, on visitor-fetching pop culture icons. "Because we can't make that stuff up. We can find it, throw a spotlight on it, and promote it—but we can't make it." That's where the magic of Hollywood comes in. Armstrong says that spots featured in TV and film benefit the city because tourists often use them as launching points to explore surrounding neighborhoods.
San Francisco isn't the only city with places made familiar by TV and movies. The coffee shop in Seinfeld is an actual late-night diner in Manhattan called Tom's Restaurant, and the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston was used as the bar exterior in Cheers. (The Pub, which sells Cheers mugs and shirts and whose menu includes Sam's Starters and Rebecca's Fish and Chips, actually changed its name to Cheers Beacon Hill.) So why are some places so excited to be immortalized by show biz, and why do they fascinate tourists?
"American culture is still relatively young, so we have these things to rally around—like The Brady Bunch house or the real-life Field of Dreams," says pop culture and travel writer Chris Epting. He's the author of a series of books on the subject, including James Dean Died Here, an encyclopedic guide of over 600 pop culture landmarks and roadside Americana. "I have literally visited thousands of these sites." A sampling of Epting's catalogue: the prison used in The Shawshank Redemption, the diner in the film Diner, and the Philly freight elevator in which Daryl Hall and John Oates met.
Unlike the Full House house tenants, some landmark-owners do cash in on their pop-culture treasures. There's the Seinfeld eatery and Cheers bar, but the owner of the house used in A Christmas Story outdoes them all. A superfan of the 1983 holiday film (who made a pretty penny selling "leg lamps") bought the Cleveland home, remodeled the interior to resemble the set from the film, and opened the made-over abode to the public as a tourist attraction. There's a flagpole out front where patrons can copy the scene where a triple dog dare gets Flick's tongue frozen to the metal. The place has also expanded to include a gift shop. And Ian Petrella, the actor who played kid brother Randy, was paid by the owner to actually live in the house for a few weeks, taking photos and giving tours.